Ancestors to be unearthed to make way for new burials in Leighton Buzzard?

Drone view of Vandyke Road Cemetery
Drone view of Vandyke Road Cemetery

Old graves could be exhumed at Vandyke Road Cemetery in Leighton Buzzard to make way for new burials, it has emerged.

The town’s burial capacity has been determined as “problematic” with some space remaining, but not enough to meet demand for the next 20 years.

At a meeting of Leighton Linslade Town Council’s grounds and environmental services committee, a public consultation was approved on the matter of grave re-use and using the available space within graves over 100 years old.

Ian Haynes, LLTC’s head of grounds and environmental services, said: “As things presently stand, the town council has only 10 years of conventional burial capacity left.

“Despite its best endeavors, finding additional burial capacity within or just outside the parish is proving very difficult given the status of South Bedfordshire as a housing growth area.

“Landowners are more inclined to sell their land for more lucrative housing development than offer it to the town council for a more modest financial return.

“Therefore, in order for the town council to continue to be a burial authority, further capacity is required or if this cannot be found, alternative uses of the existing cemeteries will have to be considered.

“Undertaking a public consultation will seek the view of the local residents for grave re-use together with using the available space within an existing grave.”

In 2004 the Government the published a consultation paper “Burial Law and Policy in the 21st Century: The Need for a sensitive and sustainable approach”. In May 2018, the Government published its current position to the consultation exercise, stating: “The Government has been persuaded that the re-use of graves is in principle justified and constitutes a prudent and proportionate response to the need for burial space. It has therefore decided to introduce arrangements under existing legislation, to enable local authorities to authorise the excavation of old grave using exhumation licences.”

Mr Haynes added: “The town council recognised that this subject needed to be approached with a high degree of sensitivity... However, the committee felt that the re-use of graves was an option which did need to be considered locally as a possible mechanism for extending the capacity of existing cemeteries.”